Anita Ravi, MD, MPH, MSHP
What if the care you provided to your patients was not primarily about chronic diseases, but also injuries—both physical and psychological—inflicted by other people? That is where Anita Ravi, MD, MPH, MSHP makes an impact in the lives of victims of human trafficking and abuse.
“My normal is not normal anymore,” reflects Dr. Ravi, who founded a practice for people who have experienced human trafficking and sexual trauma. “I’ve had to unlearn the traditional ways we deliver healthcare in order to do it better.” Like other family physicians, Dr. Ravi strives to optimize her patients’ chronic disease management, but she does so within a unique context of physical and psychological violence perpetrated by traffickers or abusers. Many of her patients live under constant threat of physical and emotional harm, thus shifting the clinical risk calculus that most physicians are taught in medical school.
Dr. Ravi’s journey began in 2004 when she was working on her Master’s in Public Health at Yale. Her thesis project involved evaluating how domestic violence affected the HIV risk of incarcerated women in Connecticut’s Niantic prison. “That was my first foray into being able to do research in an area that I cared about and seeing the way it could impact policy” she said. She continued working at the intersection of research and policy as a Reproductive Health Fellow at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Ultimately, it was through family medicine that she found a way to connect her passion for person-centered care, public health research and policy.
That interest in clinical care, research, and policy led to the realization that this particular group of patients needed to be involved in the process of designing a clinic that catered to their unique needs. Guided by her research 10 years later in a correctional setting, Dr. Ravi returned to the federally qualified health center where she did her family medicine residency and established The Institute for Family Health’s PurpLE Clinic (Purpose: Listen and Engage). In its first two years, the clinic has become a health home for over 150 patients and their families, and has expanded to provide longitudinal care for other forms of trauma, including domestic violence, sexual assault, and rape.
In parallel, Dr. Ravi brought a resolution through the NCCL and the AAFP on improving trafficking medical education, a resolution that was passed and adopted in 2016. As the AMA delegate from the NCCL, she initiated a resolution through the AMA Women’s Physicians Caucus on the health of women and children in family detention. “I think that a lot of the work I do is beyond health care; it’s shifting what our cultural norms are,” she said.
Dr. Ravi is, in fact, living her dream. “I have a Post-It note that I created and it says, ‘You have a dream job,’” she said. “It has a smiley face and somehow, after 10 years, it still sticks to the wall.” Perhaps that’s because she has given hope to people who thought their dreams were lost.